Physics

  • Pair with any bachelor's degree
    • Minor

    Get Involved

    A college education is more than just taking courses. Meet new people, apply your skills and stretch beyond your comfort zone. Make your education an experience.

    • Competition: Western students built a Mars rover-like robot for NASA’s Colorado Space Grant Consortium Robotics Challenge. 
       
    • Gunnison Valley Observatory: Faculty and students use this sophisticated facility for research and teaching.
       
    • Independent Projects: Students are encouraged to work on projects and conduct research with Physics faculty.

    Scholarships

    Program-Based Scholarships

    Charlesworth, William Memorial Scholarship

    Eligibility

    • Applied or accepted Western student
    • Student is pursuing a major in Mathematics or related Natural Sciences
    • Applicant has demonstrated a need for financial assistance
    • Demonstrated an interest and is active in inter-collegiate athletics
    • Preference should be given to entering freshmen, however all classes are eligible
    • Preference should be given to applicants whose study time is limited by family obligations or the need to earn income
    • No preference shall be given based on the sex of the applicant
    • Preference will be given to applicant from Delta County, CO. or the Western Slope of Colorado

    Description

    Established with the Western Colorado University Foundation to perpetuate the memory of William Charlesworth, a 1954 graduate of Western Colorado University. The express purpose of the fund is to provide financial assistance to student-athletes pursuing majors in mathematics or related natural sciences.

    Award depends on funds available.

    Selected By: The chair of Mathematics and Computer Science and a representative from the Athletic Department appointed by the Athletic Director. A representative from the Natural Sciences Department shall be on the selection committee.

    Application:

    Contact the Mathematics & Computer Science Department or the Athletic Department for application and deadline information.

    Mathematics & Computer Science Department: 970.943.2015 | Hurst Hall 128
    Athletic Department: 970.943.2079 | Paul Wright Gym 201.

    Mckenny, Casey James Memorial Scholarships

    Eligibility

    • Full-time juniors or seniors (qualified juniors shall be given preference over seniors)
    • Must be declared major in the Natural and Environmental Sciences Department
    • Must maintain at least 3.2 GPA
    • Recipients must follow Casey's example of academic promise, love for the outdoors and service to fellow students demonstrated by volunteering in the community and involvement in campus activities and service.

    Description

    this scholarship is provided by the gifts by Bill and Monica McKenny, Casey's parents, as well as other family members and friends.

    Award depends on funds available.

    Selected by: Natural & Environmental Sciences faculty in consultation with the Dean of Students and Bill and Monica McKenny.

    Application:

    Contact the Natural & Environmental Sciences Department for application and deadline information.

    970.943.2015 | Hurst Hall 128

    Nauman, James D. Scholarship

    Eligibility

    • Full-time Colorado residents who have a major in a field within the Natural & Environmental Science Department
    • Must have a cumulative GPA of 2.0 minimum
    • Demonstrate financial need

    Description

    This scholarship is provided by Dr. James Nauman, who attended Western from 1945-49.

    Award depends on funds available.

    Selected by: Sciences Scholarship Selection Committee.

    Application:

    Contact the Natural & Environmental Sciences Department  for application and deadline information.

    970.943.2015 | Hurst Hall 128

    Walker, C. Ralph and Florence Memorial Scholarship

    Eligibility

    • Full-time students who have declared a major in Biology, Chemistry, or Physics

    Description

    This scholarship is provided by the gifts from members of the Walker family to perpetuate the memory and to commemorate the service and devotion of C. Ralph and Florence Walker, who both served Western and the Gunnison community in an exemplary manner for many years. Professor Walker was Chairman of Western's then Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

    Award depends on funds available.

    Selected by:Sciences Scholarship Selection Committee.

    Application:

    Contact the Natural & Environmental Sciences Department for application and deadline information.

    970.943.2015 | Hurst Hall 128

    Institutional Scholarships

    Common Scholarships

    Western offers approximately 70 common scholarships for which a wide variety of students are eligible (e.g., locals, veterans, transfers). Apply for any number of these common scholarships using Western’s Common Scholarship Application, which is due April 1. For more information, visit western.edu/scholarships.

    Early Action Credit

    If a student is accepted to Western by Nov. 1 and qualifies for a merit scholarship, the student will receive an additional $500 for the first year. Use our Net Price Calculator to determine whether you qualify for a merit scholarship.

    Mountaineer Alumni Recommendation Scholarship

    Western Colorado University alumni can nominate prospective students for a $500 scholarship ($250 per semester) for first year only. Application deadline is typically June 1. For more information, visit western.edu/mars.

    Neighboring States Program

    Students with a permanent address from one of the seven contiguous neighboring states to Colorado who have demonstrated financial need are automatically considered for a special $1,000 per year grant, totaling $4,000 over four years.

    The Western Neighboring States program can be added to WUE, CP or merit scholarships. So, if you are a permanent resident of one of those seven states—and show financial need—you are eligible.

    For more information about the Neighboring States program, visit Western’s Tuition Discount Programs Page.

    Presidential Promise

    The Presidential Promise is guaranteed to students who have received a scholarship through the Denver Scholarship Foundation (DSF) and/or GearUp—and are eligible for a Pell Grant.

    For students who meet these criteria, Western will cover the cost of tuition and fees through the combination of federal, state and institutional aid. For more information on the Presidential promise, visit western.edu/scholarships.

    Tuition Discount Programs

    Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) or Central Plains (CP) tuition represents a substantial savings relative to normal, out-of-state tuition. Students eligible for the WUE or CP program will be charged 150% of Western’s total in-state tuition. For 2018-19, total in-state tuition was $8,934. WUE/CP tuition was $13,401. The WUE/CP discount is valued at $4,695.

    For more information about the WUE and CP geography-based programs, visit Western’s Tuition Discount Programs Page.

    Western Merit Scholarship

    Immediately upon acceptance at Western, every student is considered for a merit scholarship worth between $2,500-$4,500 per year for in-state students and $8,000-$10,000 for out-of-state students. The amount is based on the student's GPA and ACT/SAT scores. Visit our Net Price Calculator at western.edu/cost to determine whether you qualify for a merit scholarship. 

    For more information about merit scholarships at Western, visit western.edu/scholarships.

    Faculty & Staff

    Faculty

    Steve Griggs headshot
    Lecturer in Physics
    Phone:
    Office Location: Hurst Hall 202
    John Mason, Ph.D. headshot
    Professor of Physics
    Phone: 970.943.2142
    Office Location: Hurst Hall 116
    Suzanne Taylor, Ph.D. headshot
    Associate Professor of Physics
    Phone: 970.943.2155
    Office Location: Hurst Hall 118

    Courses

    FOR REQUIRED COURSES AND DEGREE PLANS, VISIT THE OFFICIAL UNIVERSITY CATALOG. This is a sample of courses offered by Western Colorado University. To ensure the courses you need are offered during the current semester, please visit the university course search.

     PHYS 110 - Introductory Astronomy (3 credits)

    An overview of the historical development of astronomy and the basic physical principles that are relevant to it. The overall structure of the Universe is studied and its various components examined. Includes limited observational activities. Prerequisite: completion of the general education essential skills mathematics requirement. GT-SC2

     PHYS 120 - Meteorology (3 credits)

    A summary of the structure of the Earth's atmosphere, worldwide weather disturbances, weather forecasting, and snow avalanches. This course may not be taken for credit toward the Physics Minor.

     PHYS 125 - Energy and the Environment (3 credits)

    A practical study of energy generation and its environmental impact, including the physics of energy fundamentals, fossil fuel use, alternative energy uses, and energy conservation. Primarily for non-science majors, this course will qualitatively detail basic physical principles behind the use of energy, including mechanics, electricity and magnetism, and thermodynamics. This course is designed to provide the student with a physicist's perspective on energy use and environmental issues. Prerequisite: completion of the general education essential skills mathematics requirement.

     PHYS 140 - Introductory Physics (with laboratory) (4 credits)

    A semi-quantitative introduction to the fundamental concepts of physical science, particularly the laws of physics as they relate to the structure of matter. Laboratory experiences play an important role in the investigations. This course may not be taken for credit toward the Physics Minor. Additional course fee applies. Prerequisite: ACT math score of 19 or above; SAT math score of 500 or above; MATH 099; Accuplacer Elementary Algebra test score of 85 or above.

     PHYS 170 - Principles of Physics I (with laboratory) (4 credits)

    A quantitative lecture and laboratory introduction to the basic principles of physics. Topics covered include the motions of particles, forces in nature, field concepts, energy, conservation laws, and many-particle systems. A mathematical proficiency at the level of college algebra is recommended. Additional course fee applies. Prerequisites: Accuplacer College-Level Mathematics test score of 95 or above, or MATH 141. GT-SC1

     PHYS 171 - Principles of Physics II (with laboratory) (4 credits)

    A continuation of PHYS 170 dealing with electromagnetism, light, thermodynamics,and the atomic structure of matter. Additional course fee applies. Prerequisite: PHYS 170.

     PHYS 200 - General Physics I (with laboratory) (4 credits)

    A quantitative lecture and laboratory introduction to the basic principles of physics, using the concepts of calculus as a tool. Topics covered include the motions of particles, forces in nature, field concepts, energy, conservation laws, many-particle systems, and thermodynamics. A student may not receive credit for both PHYS 170 and PHYS 200. Additional course fee applies. Prerequisite or Corequisite: MATH 151. GT-SC1

     PHYS 201 - General Physics II (with laboratory) (3 credits)

    A continuation of PHYS 200 dealing with electromagnetism, light, and the atomic structure of matter. A student cannot receive credit for both PHYS 171 and 201. Additional course fee applies. Prerequisite: PHYS 200.

  • Pair with any bachelor's degree
    • Minor

    Overview

    Physicists are concerned with understanding the way nature operates: the basic components of the universe and how they interact. The field of physics includes the study of motion, force and energy and uses these concepts to explain phenomena ranging from the simple motion of a hockey puck to the complexities of quantum mechanics. A minor in physics instills both a fundamental understanding of the world around us as well as problem-solving skills that will enhance a major in any discipline.

    The Program

    The Physics minor consists of 21 credits, many of which are earned in labs and upper-division courses where students work closely with their peers and professors. Students entering the program should have a strong foundation in math and be prepared to take calculus at the minimum. The program begins with introductory courses that span the breadth of the field and progress toward upper-division courses in astrophysics, mechanics, and electricity and magnetism. Those who wish for a deeper dive into the field can participate in independent and faculty-guided research.

    Careers & Opportunities

    The reasoning and problem solving skills acquired through the Physics minor prepare students to succeed in any career. For students pursuing graduate school in science, math or engineering, the Physics minor makes them not only a competitive applicant, but also gives them a strong foundation on which to base their studies. The rigorous nature of studying physics indicates to future employers that the student possesses both a strong work ethic and can quickly adapt to a challenging work environment. A Physics minor is ideal for students looking to pursue careers in a wide range of fields, including:

    • Computer Science
    • Economics
    • Education
    • Energy
    • Engineering
    • Medicine

    Learn More

    Reach out to Suzanne Taylor, Ph.D. for more information.